I’ve known lawyers who sometimes make assumptions before reading an entire document or hearing their client’s entire story. In The Trusted Advisor, authors  David H. Maister, Charles H Green and Robert M. Galford  end their discussion of the art of listening with a story.

In a criminal trial, the defense lawyer is cross examining a pathologist. Here is what happened:
Attorney: Before you signed death certificate had you taken pulse?
Coroner: No
Attorney: Did you listen to the heart?
Coroner: No.
Attorney: Did you check for breathing?
Coroner: No.
Attorney: So, when you signed death certificate, you weren’t really sure the man was dead, were you?
Coroner: Well, let me put it this way. The man’s brain was sitting in a jar on my desk. But, I guess it’s possible he could be out there practicing law somewhere.
How many times have you made an assumption without reading an entire document, or before your client finished telling you the story? I know I have done it. Like many of you, I wanted my client to  know how how smart and experienced I was, having handled another matter just like the one he was describing. Next time you are tempted to do it, slow down and think about the lawyer cross-examining the coroner in the story..